info@wda.org.au

Supporting leaders as coronavirus restrictions ease

ChrisKotur

RESILIENCE, a collaborative mindset and confidence in change management are some of the outcomes community leaders can gain from a series of online forums this month. 

As coronavirus social distancing restrictions ease, community leaders likely need to adapt their practices and planning to recognise changing times. 

Wimmera Development Association and its long-running leadership development program, Leadership Wimmera, will host a community leaders series of lunchtime forums during June. 

The series begins on Tuesday, June 16 addressing the topic: What is community leadership? Northern Grampians Shire Council chief executive Liana Thompson and Uniting Wimmera executive officer Josh Koenig, also a Horsham Rural City councillor, will share their leadership journeys and what community leadership means to them. Register here.

On Tuesday, June 23 at a forum discussing collaboration, Wimmera Health Care Group’s Amelia Crafter will share how the organisation worked with health officials, governments and the community to fund and build the Wimmera Cancer Centre, based in Horsham. Register here.

The final forum, on June 30, will discuss how people and groups can create a “new normal” in changing environments. Jo Bourke will share the challenges and successes of the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline project that changed the way rural properties access water. Register here.

Christine Kotur will lead the discussions. Ms Kotur provides expert professional services in the fields of strategy, governance, leadership development, complex inquiries, reviews and facilitation. She is a highly regarded independent chair, company director and strategic advisor to CEOs, senior executives, board chairs and directors, councillors and committees

Services, business models and policies are reshaping right now, by forces beyond our control,” Ms Kotur said. 

“It’s time to pause, get on the balcony and draw down every lesson, experience, story, idea and good advice you heard probably thinking you’d ‘come back to that later’. Come back to that knowledge now. 

People will need strong community leaders more than ever and that means we can’t stop learning.”

Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness said Ms Kotur was an outstanding presenter whose experience with and learnings from government inquiries and Royal Commissions had earned her immense respect. Ms Kotur is Leadership Victoria’s Leader in Residence. 

Chris is one of the best in the business in understanding how communities move through crisis. She will share what helps communities bounce back better than ever, how others reinvented themselves, and why some really struggled to pull through,” Mr Sounness said. 

He said the association was offering the forums at no cost as a way to support the community as it responded to the health crisis. 

COVID-19 is no different to any crisis in the community – people need to stand up. Our challenge at this point is to define how we, as a region, emerge post COVID-19 and keep working together for the best possible outcomes for our community and our people, Mr Sounness said. 

Chris Kotur believes that local leaders stepping up can lead to successful communities; if leadership is left to governments or other parties then recovery is far harder. 

“Our forums are all about local stories and local leadership, sharing ‘warts and all’ their experiences so others can learn from them.” 

The forums will run via Zoom and open at 12.15pm for a 12.30pm start. Recordings will be available.

Helping football, netball clubs survive

WIMMERA football and netball clubs are being encouraged to use the COVID-19 lockdown to take stock of their club’s position and plan for a sustainable future.
Wimmera Regional Sports Assembly in partnership with Wimmera Development Association will host a virtual forum at 7.30pm on Wednesday, May 20 to help equip board and committee members with the skills to make informed decisions moving forward.
The forum will provide board and committee members with a checklist and average financial figures relating to key costs and revenue for football and netball clubs in the region to assist with decision-making.
Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness said it was important football and netball clubs continued to thrive.
“Sports clubs are the pillars of small communities and are part of what makes our region so attractive,” Mr Sounness said.
“We are in unprecedented times, so it is important boards and committees can have the discussions that will allow them to move forward towards a long and successful future.
“In the past, some of these decisions may have been made without consultation or consideration for the sustainability of the club.
“Working with the Wimmera Regional Sports Assembly, we want to ensure all committee members have the skills necessary to help their clubs thrive and address any common concerns clubs may have.”
Mr Sounness said representatives from all Wimmera league and Horsham and District league clubs were invited to attend the forum via Zoom on Wednesday night.
He said, in addition, the Wimmera Regional Sports Assembly and Wimmera Development Association were keen to identify what additional support football and netball clubs may need to ensure viability and sustainability.

Event cancellation hits hard

eventsEVENT cancellations due to COVID-19 has cost the Wimmera and southern Mallee more than $15 million.
Wimmera Development Association has surveyed 40 events scheduled across the region between March 22 and May 31 . Health advice and social distancing forced organisers to cancel or postpone plans due to COVID-19.
Event organisers forecast these cancellations cost the region $15.392 million in direct event expenditure and a further $7 million in indirect expenditure. This affected almost 60,000 participants with more than 20,000 day trips and 36,000 overnight visitors staying in the region about 75,000 nights forfeited. Organisers say their groups lost more than $800,000 in direct revenue and more than $120,000 in surplus.
More than 20 of the community, cultural and sporting events surveyed were due to occur in Horsham Rural City, with seven in Northern Grampians shire and six in Yarriambiack shire. These included annual drawcards such as the Stawell Gift, Grampians Grape Escape and Horsham Country Music Festival.
Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness said the region had a vibrant autumn events calendar, centred around Easter.
"Events are an important part of the Wimmera community, playing a major role in bringing the community together and attracting visitors to the region,” Mr Sounness said.
“Early into the response to COVID-19, we realised the cancellation of these events was going to have huge impacts in our region – financially and socially – and these results paint a powerful picture of that impact.”
For further information on this study please contact Executive Director - Chris Sounness This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Businesses to guide regional sustainability actions

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WIMMERA and southern Mallee businesses can shape support andsustainabilityinitiatives designed for the region. 

Wimmera Development Association, the peak advocacy body supporting and promoting economic development opportunities to investors, is calling on businesses to provide feedback to informlocalised initiatives. 

Wimmera Development Association project manager Mark Fletcher said the Australian Business Economic Impact Survey (ABEIS) aimed to respond to the rapid change businesses had experienced as a result of COVID-19

REMPLAN will manage the survey and present insights throughout the lifecycle of the pandemic. 

Mr Fletcher said the survey asked people to reflect their business make-up; forecast the impacts of the coronavirus disruption on revenue, customers, staffing and production of goods; and investigate their priorities for coming months in order to assess the business’ capacity to adapt to changing and challenging times. 

Mr Fletcher said Wimmera Development Association and councils could access a breakdown of that feedback relative to their location.

“REMPLAN economic modelling is highly recognised by the state government for planning applications, and local governments use the information for future planning and project development, business support and grant applications,” Mr Fletcher said.

“The more information this survey can collect, the morerepresentative it will be – for shires and industries. 

“We understand businesses are responding to the now. Planning for the future and accessing support to recover also remains critical.” 

Mr Fletcher said people could visit https://surveys.remplan.com.au/s3/REMPLAN-COVID-19-ABEISto access the survey. It takes about 15 minutes to complete.

Wimmera Development Association is the peak advocacy body behind many major, emerging projects in the region. It supports businesses, promotes economic development opportunities to investors and is a key link between industry and governments, lobbying for improved infrastructure and for regional priority issues.

Parliamentary inquiry to hear Wimmera experiences

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FEEDBACK from a Wimmera-based study into the impacts of working and learning from home during the coronavirus crisis will inform federal parliamentary inquiry submission discussing the issue. 

Wimmera Development Association is leading a study that investigates the impact of this period on families – and particularly mothers who are juggling home learning, home duties and work commitments during the crisis. 

Feedback from the study will inform a submission to the inquiry into the role of culture, family and community in delivering better education outcomes for students living in remote Australia and in complex environments. 

Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness said the House Education Committeerenewed calls for submissions last week as students and teachers started preparing to return to the classroom.

The Wimmera community contributing to this inquiry ensures that parliament gains understanding of the challenges we face in our region, along with the opportunities we have,” MrSounness said. 

Our region is keen to ensure we allow our students to achieve their best possible outcomes and we know we need to provide most appropriate support to the students, their families and the institutions to allow this to occur.” 

MrSounnesssaid people could text their first name and a contact phone number to 0491 628 338to register their interest for the studyThose involved in learning from home, or supervising learning from home are eligible. Participants will be contacted to arrange an interview, lasting about 20 minutes. 

The House Education Committee adopted the inquiry in November. Public hearing arrangements are suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions but submissions remain open until June 15

The committee’s work will highlight initiatives to meet the unique learning needs of students and to address barriers that they may face when accessing education. It will also now take into account the response and challenges of distancing learning in recent months. 

The committee also wants to hear about the experience of remote schools; career counselling of remote students; challenges faced by regional schooling providers and initiatives in place;how families of vulnerable children can access, enrol and remain in early learning, and the collaboration between early and primary education; the performance and monitoring of those in home schooling to maintain national minimum standards; andaccess and support to deliver the Australian curriculum including STEM in a flexible way.

Wimmera Development Association is the peak advocacy body behind many major, emerging projects in the region. It supports businesses, promotes economic development opportunities to investors and is a key link between industry and governments, lobbying for improved infrastructure and for regional priority issues.

MrSounness said peopleseeking assistance could phone Uniting’s Wimmera on 1800 195 114. Students canspeak to their teacher or school’s wellbeing officer for learning guidance; or contact eheadspace on 1800 650 890 for mental health support. In an emergency, contact 000.

Detailing home learning, work impacts

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WIMMERA Development Association is seeking volunteers to participate in a study about the impacts of working and learning from home during the coronavirus health crisis.

Health advice moved the operation of many businesses and organisations into homes in March, while Victorian schools delivered education for many students remotely when term two resumed in April.

Wimmera Development Association is the peak advocacy body behind many major, emerging projects in the region. It supports businesses, promotes economic development opportunities to investors and is a key link between industry and governments, lobbying for improved infrastructure and for regional priority issues.

The association’s executive director Chris Sounness said the study aimed to understand and document the challenges of this period.

“Many children are feeling that it’s very hard for them to get a clear understanding of expectations while they are learning from home, they aren’t receiving the feedback they want and the structure, or lack of structure, is challenging,” Mr Sounness said. “Parents are often trying to work full-time while providing a learning environment for their children, and they feel they are letting people down when they make choices about work or their child’s schooling.

“Some children are totally disengaged. Then there are some children who are finding remote learning far better environment for them to learn. One size does not fit all.

“When the time comes that restrictions have eased, we need to ensure people feel supported, and we need to understand what resources the Wimmera and southern Mallee needs to put in place to ensure everyone can achieve the best they can.”

Mr Sounness said the study would investigate the impacts of this period on mothers.

“Families are struggling to get the workload right when both parents are working from home and the children are learning from home – how do they support their kids and deliver outcomes for work at the same time?” he said. “Many mothers are feeling an increased burden compared to a normal working environment and that has significant personal and flow-on impacts to families and the wider community.”

Mr Sounness said participation in the study was voluntary and responses would remain confidential.People must be involved in learning from home or supervising learning from home to be eligible. He said people could text their first name and a contact phone number to 0491 628 338 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to register their interest. Participants will be contacted to arrange an interview, lasting about 20 minutes.

The study is one element of the work Wimmera Development Association is undertaking to address existing needs across the Wimmera and southern Mallee and the issues the coronavirus health challenge has exposed or exacerbated.

Mr Sounness said people seeking assistance could phone Uniting’s Wimmera on 1800 195 114. Students can speak to their teacher or school’s wellbeing officer for learning guidance; or contact eheadspace on 1800 650 890 for mental health support. In an emergency, contact 000.

Internet connectivity under scrutiny

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UNDERSTANDING the impacts of the COVID-19 health crisis on internet connectivity is the focus of a new survey.

Wimmera Development Association is calling on residents of the Wimmera and southern Mallee to test the speed of their home or mobile internet service between May 1 and 15. Results and feedback provided to the association will help paint a picture of the disadvantage the region is experiencing – particularly exacerbated by people working and learning at home.

Household access to the internet is generally poor across the Wimmera. An Addressing Regional Disadvantage – Infrastructure Assessment Framework report shows about 30 per cent of residents do not have access to the internet at all, compared to the Victorian average of 17 per cent.

The association’s executive director Chris Sounness said people deserved better.

“Our IT infrastructure has been tested like it has never been tested before,” Mr Sounness said.

“In the Wimmera and southern Mallee region, we tend to have connectivity challenges compared to other regions generally. This survey is a chance to document how we stack up – assessing the speed for downloads and uploads compared to what we actually pay for.”

Mr Sounness said collecting and collating the data was a vital step in the association’s advocacy.

“The data collected will be distributed to key stakeholders and used to advocate to improve services for our region,” he said.

“In a post-COVID world, telecommunications infrastructure and importance of its suitability for work and education is only going to increase. We need to ensure our infrastructure is fit for purpose, and competitive with other parts of Australia.

“The Wimmera and southern Mallee is a great place to live – and to remain a great place to live, we need telecommunications infrastructure that delivers to all residents and all parts of our region.”

Mr Sounness said people could participate in the survey as many times as they wanted, and the process was a simple click of a button.

An online test will assess the participant’s internet speed – requiring one test for 3G, 4G or 5G mobile internet; and three tests at staggered times throughout the same day for a home internet speed assessment.

“The more data we get, the richer the picture it will draw,” Mr Sounness said. “Currently some people are commenting that their service seems to be struggling to keep up with extra demands – and this is our chance to understand just how much pressure that is.

“We need to support anecdotes with data.”

The survey is open to all residents between May 1 and 15.

Mr Sounness said people wanting to complete the home internet speed survey could visit https://form.jotform.com/201118906587863

People wanting to complete the mobile internet survey can visit https://form.jotform.com/201191468111850

Wimmera Development Association is the peak advocacy body behind many major, emerging projects in the region. It supports businesses, promotes economic development opportunities to investors and is a key link between industry and governments, lobbying for improved infrastructure and for regional priority issues.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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Investment forum in the pipeline

PROMOTING growth opportunities in the Wimmera to reach a $5 billion economy is a focus for the region’s peak advocacy body.

Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness said the region had a $3.3 billion economy – but the community should no longer accept business as usual.

He said a $5 billion economy within a decade was achievable – but community leaders needed to ensure they considered the potential for population growth within a changing climate that was posing significant challenge.

Preliminary planning stages are underway for an investment forum aimed at showcasing the Wimmera to its residents and to people and businesses who might invest in the region.

Mr Sounness said the forum, to occur within the next 12 months, would showcase investment opportunities in the region such as renewable energy and mining, and in key employment areas and support networks.

“Businesses – including those that exist locally and those that might invest in the Wimmera – need to be ready to deal with the changing environments in many definitions of the word,” Mr Sounness said.

"Opportunities around energy, for example, are huge, and there are ways to create it and use it. That leads to more job opportunities and more careers for people here.

“This investment forum will help tell those stories and share the opportunities to set us on the path to becoming a $5 billion economy.”

Mr Sounness said people should aspire to live in a region they wanted and deserved.

“Everyone in the Wimmera and southern Mallee are looking for a great place to live, with a healthy and productive landscape. They want a natural environment that is healthy and attractive and want the opportunity to get ahead,” he said.

“But what does that look like in 10 years’ time? We all have the power to shape what that looks like and we need to show leadership and aspiration in developing that strategy.”